7 of the Best Foods for Gut Health, According to a Gastroenterologist

Good gut health is essential for overall wellness—it affects digestionimmunity, and even mental health. And, no matter your weight or health goals, understanding how to support your digestive system with a healthy diet can be a game-changer.

According to gastroenterologist and MyFitnessPal’s scientific advisor Dr. Janese Laster, what you eat plays a big role in determining the health of your gut. The best foods for gut health can help it thrive (more on that in a minute!), while others may do damage.

What Is the Fastest Way To Improve Gut Health?

First things first: not everyone needs to improve gut health—if you eat a balanced, diverse diet, your gut may already be thriving! But maintaining gut health does require a healthy dose of consistency. And if you’re worried about your gut health, there are some symptoms you can look out for.

“Symptoms can vary from person to person but some include chronic fatigue, skin problems, mood disturbances, autoimmune conditions, bowel disturbances, and even unintended weight loss or gain. It’s always important to work with a healthcare professional for a proper evaluation and treatment,” says Dr. Laster. 

Your gut microbiome—including all the good and bad bacteria—tend to balance each other and lead to good health. But sometimes, this balance slips. That’s when you can get infections and other gut health conditions. When launching your gut health journey, it’s important to remember that it’s not an overnight fix. You’ve got to be in it for the long game. 

“Focus on improving your diet,” says Dr. Laster. “Eat more fiber, stay hydrated, and limit processed foods and alcohol. It’s also important to manage your stress, exercise frequently, and get enough sleep.”

If this sounds like a lot, don’t worry! You don’t have to change everything all at once to get a healthy gut microbiome. Instead, choose one (or a couple) of Dr. Laster’s top gut-friendly foods to add to your diet, then build on that over time.

Bonus: We created a gut health nutrition plan in collaboration with Dr. Laster. It’s available for FREE in the MyFitnessPal app on May 14, 2024.

Here are seven food categories Dr. Laster recommends when incorporating gut-friendly food into your diet. 

1. Greek yogurt

Greek yogurt contains a high concentration of friendly bacteria, also known as probiotics. 

“Probiotics are live organisms that help break down food more efficiently, aid in nutrient absorption, and promote a healthy balance of bacteria in the gut,” explains Dr. Laster. “Because of this, they can help strengthen the digestive system and assist in improving or sustaining gut health.”

Greek yogurt can be enjoyed as a standalone snack or as a component of various dishes, both savory and sweet. Consider adding a drizzle of honey for natural sweetness and a sprinkling of nuts for that satisfying crunch and a boost of healthy fats.

2. Gut-friendly spices

Many spices are not only tasty, they’re also good for your gut.

All of these gut-friendly spices also contain polyphenols, which are compounds that help stop cell damage—supporting the health of your gut lining—and may help fight off pathogens like bad bacteria. 

3. Whole grains like quinoa and oats

Whole grains are rich in dietary fiber, which are considered prebiotics and act as a source of fuel for the beneficial bacteria living in your gut. 

“Unlike probiotics, which are live organisms, prebiotics are non-digestible parts of food that reach the colon intact and ferment,” explains Dr. Laster. “They provide nourishment for the probiotic bacteria and help them to grow and thrive. This symbiotic relationship supports a healthy digestive system, enhances the absorption of minerals, and contributes to immune function.” 

Some of the more common whole grains are whole oats, brown rice, and whole-wheat flour. You can find many store-bought breads and oats full of these healthy grains. To keep your diet diverse, add other grains like farro, spelt, and quinoa whenever possible. 

Fun fact: Only about 5% of Americans eat enough fiber. MyFitnessPal makes it easy to track your daily fiber intake and get closer to a healthy goal!

4. Legumes

Like whole grains, legumes—think: lentils, peas, chickpeas, beans, and peanuts—are a rich source of dietary and prebiotic fiber. 

Most of the prebiotic fiber in legumes comes from resistant starches

“Your upper GI tract can’t break these starches down,” says Dr. Laster. “Instead, they reach the large intestines—also known as your colon—fully intact and are used as a fuel source by beneficial bacteria.”

If you don’t currently eat a lot of legumes, gradually introduce them to your diet to allow your digestive system to adjust to the increased fiber intake. A good starting point is about half a cup of cooked legumes per day, increasing the amount slowly over time. It’s also important to drink plenty of water to help manage the fiber’s effects on your digestion!

5. Miso and tofu

Tofu and miso are fermented foods made from soybeans. These foods have natural bacteria like Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species—both of which also appear in yogurt. Adding fermented soybeans to your diet can boost your healthy bacteria and help support your overall gut and brain health.

Miso and tofu are just two of these gut-health probiotics. You might also like the health benefits of fermented soybean foods like tempeh, natto, or douchi. 

7 of the Best Foods for Gut Health, According to a Gastroenterologist

6. Nuts and seeds

Chia seeds, hemp seeds, and nuts like cashews, pine nuts, and pistachios are excellent sources of dietary fiber and prebiotics. This makes them perfect for your gut microbiome. 

[As Dr. Laster explains, “Nuts and seeds give your intestines a healthy dose of prebiotic fiber. Your gut bacteria use this fiber to help protect the intestinal lining—among other gut benefits.”] Adding nuts and seeds to your microbiome diet gives your gut bacteria some delicious variety. Your taste buds will thank you, too.

7. Fiber-rich fruits and vegetables

Along with other healthy foods, reach for plenty of fruits and vegetables chock full of healthy, gut-loving fiber. 

“The best fruit for digestion should balance fiber with sugar content,” says Dr. Laster. That’s why it’s better to eat the whole fruit instead of drinking fruit juice.  

Some excellent fiber-rich fruits include raspberries, blackberries, guava, pears, and wild blueberries.

Some vegetables with plenty of fiber include Brussels sprouts, artichokes, green peas, pumpkin, turnips, parsnips, peppers, and mushrooms.

Fiber-rich foods | MyFitnessPalFiber-rich foods | MyFitnessPal

Finding some of the best foods for gut health can be as simple as exploring the grocery store aisles. There’s a colorful world of foods ready to nourish your gut and boost your health. 

To check your progress, use MyFitnessPal to log your meals and track your fiber intake. You can see your fruit and veggie intake with Weekly Insights, a handy feature to help you on your gut health journey. It’s time to build that healthy diet! 

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